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Beginning my career in nursing

Ellie Fowler, newly qualified nurse

Applying to be a newly qualified nurse at University Hospital Southampton was an incredibly easy choice. Not only did I feel encouraged and supported during my placements at the Trust, but compared to the few other hospitals I applied to, UHS stood out to me as the most welcoming and organised.

I found the application process itself very easy to follow, with any of my queries being answered by the recruitment team without issue. Being a student juggling various responsibilities at the time, feeling well-informed about what to expect from my interview really put my mind at ease. When the day of my interview came around, any nerves I had were immediately calmed by the friendly staff and relaxed nature of the day. I was given the opportunity to ask questions and was able to discuss which ward I’d like to be allocated to.

I didn’t have to wait long to hear back from the team about the outcome of my interview, and was delighted to be offered a job on my first choice of ward! After this, I was promptly sent all the information I needed prior to starting – including my contract, details about uniform and, most excitingly, my start date! This meant that I had nothing to worry about as I looked forward to starting my new job!

Induction week

My first week was spent in a dedicated induction programme, where our cohort was introduced to the Trust and the preceptorship programme. During this week, we had lectures on a range of topics, from tissue viability to sepsis and palliative care. We were introduced to some of the other members of the multidisciplinary team – dietitians, pharmacists and safeguarding - who informed us about how we can best utilise them in our practice. There was also time to complete our statutory and mandatory training, which I found beneficial, as it is often difficult to find the time to complete this during shifts.

Having a group of peers in the same position as me was the aspect of the induction week I valued most, helping me to feel like I was already part of a family, and taking the time to really inform us about our development pathways meant that I felt prepared not only for my first week on the ward, but for the whole year ahead! I really valued having this week of preparation, rather than launching straight into a ward environment – it helped me transition from the mindset of student nurse to registered nurse.

Supernumerary period

To allow me to familiarise myself with the ward, I was given a supernumerary period of two weeks. Initially, I was worried that I’d be expected to know everything, and that I’d be a hindrance to staff if I asked any questions. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The other members of staff went out of their way to ensure I felt comfortable, and were always happy to explain things in more detail if I didn’t understand.

This period alleviated any worries I had about practicing as a registered nurse for the first time, and gave me the flexibility to focus on areas that I was less confident in. For instance, during these two weeks it was highlighted that I was unable to collect patients from theatre (which is essential in my area) without some further training. I escalated this to the lead nurse for education within our children’s hospital and immediately received the relevant training.

At the beginning of the supernumerary period, I was allocated two preceptors. My shifts had been arranged so that I was able to meet and work with them during my first week. Their role was, and still is, to provide me with support and guidance on a regular one to one basis, making sure I’m developing as best I can and improving the areas I’m less confident in. In one of our meetings, for example, I expressed a desire to learn more about diabetic patients in order to improve my patient care in this area. This was passed onto my manager, who signed me up for a diabetic study day, greatly improving my knowledge of the condition and how to care for these patients.

Ongoing learning and support

The opportunities for learning and development offered to me have been excellent. Whenever I feel unsure of something, I’m able to access the relevant guidance easily online or can undertake the training I need to bring me up to speed. Part of the preceptorship programme here involves attending monthly study days, which have helped me to not only expand my knowledge, but have also enabled me to have open discussions with other NQNs about our progress.

I’ve always felt extremely supported and empowered by my colleagues to take on every opportunity for learning I can. In January, I completed my cannulation and venesection course, and am now qualified to do this on the ward – something I never saw myself doing!

The encouragement to develop here fills me with confidence about my future career, and I know that as long as I’m here I can continue to learn and improve. I feel incredibly proud to be part of such a forward-thinking, innovative trust and I hope to see many more people joining to share the same positive experience that I’ve had!